The Elements of Drawing, John Ruskin’s teaching collection at Oxford

The Elements of Drawing, John Ruskin’s teaching collection at Oxford

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Study of a Piece of Brick, to show Cleavage in Burnt Clay John Ruskin

  • Curator’s description:


    The recto shows a lump of broken brick, one side of which is covered with moss. The verso contains two ink lines running down in parallel from near the bottom of the left edge to the right of the bottom edge. The bottom one is straight, the upper one has two hook-shaped projections. These perhaps indicate that the sheet was cut from a piece of paper which once contained a larger ink drawing.

    Taylor follows Cook and Wedderburn in relating the drawing to Ruskin's comments in the manuscript of his second lecture on landscape, "Light and Shade", delivered on 9 February 1871 (see Cook and Wedderburn's note to Lectures on Landscape, § 31 = XXII.33 n. 1). There, Ruskin notes his reaction to a hypothetical student who objected to 'niggling' ('doing what is not necessary, on a small scale or large'), whereupon he would paint a similar study. Although this piece appears too finished to have actually been produced during a lecture, and too small to be conveniently shown during a lecture, it seems reasonable to date it to the period of the lecture on "Light and Shade".

    The drawing was certainly not listed in the collection in 1870, as it does not appear in the "Catalogue of Examples", but had been incorporated by the time Ruskin wrote the first independent catalogue of the Educational Series in 1871, where it was no. 7 E in the twelfth cabinet, dedicated to "Rocks, Water, and Clouds". It remained there in 1874, when it was renumbered 281. This section of the series remained blank in Ruskin's reorganisation of 1878.

  • Details

    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over graphite on wove paper
    219 x 154 mm
    Verso, centre, right, written up the sheet, in graphite, recent: Edu 281

    Presented by John Ruskin to the Ruskin Drawing School (University of Oxford), 1875; transferred from the Ruskin Drawing School to the Ashmolean Museum, c.1949.

    No. of items
    Accession no.
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:


  • References in which this object is cited include:


    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. 205

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. XII.7.E

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 281

    Ruskin, John, ‘The Ruskin Art Collection at Oxford: Catalogues, Notes and Instructions’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 21, cat. Educational no. 281


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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